DOWNBEACH – Steve & Cookies by the Bay, No. 7311 and Enlightened Cafe were recently named Ocean Friendly restaurants by the Surfrider Foundation South Jersey Chapter, bringing the total number of Ocean Friendly restaurants in the region to nine.
The designation is awarded to restaurants that avoid single-use plastics, polystyrene and plastic bags, and do other things to preserve the environment and reduce the amount of plastic that winds up in the ocean and eventually gets into the food chain.
The Surfrider Foundation sought restaurants and bars that were already doing things to protect the environment and asked them to do more to receive the designation. The “more” for the Downbeach restaurants was eliminating plastic straws.
Cookie Till, who owns Steve & Cookies in Margate and the No. 7311 bakery in Ventnor, said looking for green solutions has always been her priority.
“We are always looking for green solutions,” Till said. “There are so many ways we can be better, including in cleaning, the food we offer and in waste management in general.”
Till recently eliminated plastic straws from the bar.
“There’s really no need for them in a cocktail,” she said. “People just take them out and they get thrown away.”
Straws made from wheat are available upon request, she said.
“We don’t want to be the straw police,” she said.
xPaper straws are available at Enlightened Cafe in Ventnor.Till said she views all the restaurant’s cooking, cleaning and service procedures with a critical eye.
“We can always do things differently, even if there is a small expense attached to it,” she said.
Till said she is currently considering ways to ensure the restaurant is sanitary, especially in the bathrooms, without being toxic. She is currently considering a new product that will kill germs without harsh chemicals.
“Some products may be more expensive, but that’s how I want the restaurant to be,” she said. “It can be sterile without being toxic. That’s not what I want for my employees.”
Till said polystyrene (Styrofoam) is her pet peeve.
“I never let it in my restaurant. It’s got a half-life of a millennium. People only use it because it’s cheap,” she said.
Never shall a plastic water bottle appear in her restaurant as well, she said.
“We have a triple-filtration system for water and sparkling water we serve in glass bottles that eliminates the need for plastic bottles,” she said.
Till procures locally sourced meats, seafood and vegetables to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions during transportation and uses LED lighting in work areas.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do that in the front of the house until the lightbulb technology gets a little better,” she said.
Enlightened Café Manager Samantha Loyle said she has learned how to explain sustainability to her customers.
“But most of our customers are already aware and respect what we do here,” she said.
The restaurant, which serves organic foods and smoothies, recently switched to paper straws upon request. The restaurant also uses compostable containers for take-out.
Loyle said it’s difficult to determine if having the designation has attracted new diners, but that’s not the point, she said. The restaurant’s philosophy of caring about the quality of food that enters the body and protecting the ocean from “plastic junk” are the priorities, she said.
“It all comes back to us and into our bodies,” she said.
She would like to see more restaurants provide organic, vegan, vegetarian options, and get on the sustainability band wagon. Eating a plant-based diet reduces greenhouse gases produced by cattle.
“We need to change the culture of our society,” she said. “I didn’t know much when I first started working here, but now that I’m educated about it, I can convince others.”
Loyle said it took her awhile to appreciate the significance of eating organic and avoiding plastics.
“I literally cured myself of mental and physical ailments just by eating better,” she said.
For a list of other Ocean Friendly restaurants in South Jersey, see southjersey.surfrider.org.